NRL Round 11 Talking Points & Team of the Week

The Panthers finally lift, are the Roosters losing their Crow?, Canberra's demons have returned, the Storm rumble along

James Baxter
 | 
Mon, 27 May, 12:00 AM

PANTHERS FINALLY LIFT

Thursday night’s western derby was simply must-win for the bottom-placed Panthers, no matter the circumstances. Their 16-10 win over the Eels wasn’t pretty but it darn sure was overdue after a six-game losing streak threatened to tear the club apart.

Nathan Cleary took over as chief playmaker with James Maloney suspended and did enough with the ball in hand and on foot to build pressure on the Eels. With NSW halves options falling over like Steven Bradbury’s opponents, Cleary retains his Blues jersey and at least will enter camp on a high after a highly challenging season.

With credit to Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, stars Josh Mansour and Regan Campbell-Gillard responded well in their comebacks after being dropped – Mansour racking up 190 running metres while Campbell-Gillard’s 123 metres were the highest of a forward from either side. You could see how much the win meant at full-time as the Panthers emotionally embraced – they’ve been through hell and now might believe the tide could be turning.

 

Up next – amazingly the Panthers ($2 – Sportsbet) will enter their match at home to Manly ($1.80 – Sportsbet) as the side with the better form.

ARE THE ROOSTERS LOSING THEIR CROW?

To call the Newcastle Knights – a side who entered Friday night with four straight wins and with Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce in white-hot form – defeating the Sydney Roosters a shocking upset might be a tad hyperbolic – but the magnitude of their 38-12 hatchet job was truly eye-opening.

None of this will be taking anything away from how clinical the Knights were, but the biggest story might be potential cracks appearing in the reigning Premiers’ title defence. The Chooks had injuries – notably Luke Keary’s early on depriving them of a senior playmaker after Cooper Cronk was given the night off – but for a side who pride themselves on defence, the ease they were torn apart by Newcastle might give rivals a blueprint.

The Roosters forwards were outgunned – Sio Siua Taukeiaho the lone bright light with an impressive outing in a beaten pack – and Latrell Mitchell had one of the quietest games of his careers, making more handling errors (2) than runs (1). An 8-3 record entering Origin is hardly screaming “CRISIS” but with two straight losses, it might give the rest of the competition some further belief the boys from Bondi may well be stoppable after all.

 

Up next – the Roosters have a bye but will be watching Thursday’s game closely with the Panthers their round 13 opponents.

CANBERRA’S DEMONS HAVE RETURNED

The bright start to 2019 suddenly feels a long time ago for Canberra, their 22-16 loss at home to North Queensland means three straight losses and perhaps more alarmingly for a side with a reputation for losing the close games, the combined margins in their losing run is only 16 points.

Their latest loss was a grind but may have dire consequences with hooker Josh Hodgson suffering a thumb fracture which means a likely six-week absence. It’s the latest injury blow with Joey Leilua, John Bateman and Jordan Rapana already injured.

The Raiders’ attack though looked directionless without their English rake and although stars Josh Papalii and Jack Wighton worked hard, the Raiders were unable to reel back a plucky North Queensland. The Raiders’ top four hopes suddenly are now looking like top eight hopes and their horror injury list is about to be compounded with the representative season upon us.

 

Up next – life doesn’t get any easier for the Green Machine ($1.77 – Sportsbet) without Origin reps Nick Cotric, Wighton and Papalii are away to the Bulldogs ($2.05 – Sportsbet)

THE STORM RUMBLE ALONG

After a major scare against the Tigers, there was to be no late fightback needed this week against the Bulldogs for the Storm – their 28-6 win was dominant and the perfect way to enter a bye. In their round four clash Canterbury were unlucky not to pull off a stunning upset but this time their effort couldn’t make up for the gulf in on-field class. Josh Addo-Carr with two tries might grab the headlines but the comfortable win was on the back of a powerhouse display by props Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

Their combined 336 running metres wasn’t too shy from the entire Dogs starting pack’s effort (380m) and while it took a little time for the Storm attack to click with a string of forward passes, the toll from trying to contain Melbourne’s book-ends saw the Dogs unable to muster much resistance in the second half.

The only concern for Storm coach Craig Bellamy may have been in a head clash between Dale Finucane and Jahrome Hughes, with the former failing a HIA and the latter somehow playing on despite a head gash which wouldn’t have looked out of place in Game of Thrones. With the Roosters stumbling, Melbourne are now second and have responded nicely from their earlier hiccups.

 

Up next – Melbourne will have their fingers crossed for no Origin injuries during the bye week before they return to round 13 action across the ditch to the Warriors.

 

ODDSCHECKER TEAM OF THE WEEK

  1. Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
  2. Josh Addo-Carr (Storm)
  3. Bronson Xerri (Sharks)
  4. Brian Kelly (Titans)
  5. Dale Copley (Titans)
  6. Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)
  7. Mitchell Pearce (Knights)
  8. Payne Haas (Broncos)
  9. Damien Cook © (Rabbitohs)
  10. David Klemmer (Knights)
  11. Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
  12. Ryan Matterson (Tigers)
  13. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys)

 

ODDSCHECKER PLAYER OF THE WEEK

While Queensland are scrambling to find a makeshift option for their hooking crisis, New South Wales are grinning ear to ear with the game’s best number nine in prime form for the Blues. Damien Cook was ruthlessly efficient for the Bunnies’ big win over the Tigers with a try, two try assists and 47 tackles with a single miss.

While his stats are a way of showing how good Cook is, it’s the anticipation he creates for punters which are unmatched – every play-the-ball is an opportunity for NRL’s most dynamic hooker to create something out of nothing. It’s going to prove a nightmare for the Maroons to stop – after all, nobody at NRL level in 2019 has managed it so far.

 

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*odds correct at time of posting.

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